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What is Dumbbell Deadlift?

One variation of the Romanian deadlift (RDL), sometimes referred to as a stiff-leg deadlift, is the dumbbell deadlift.

 A person performing a dumbbell deadlift exercise, standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and holding dumbbells by their thighs. They hinge at the hips, maintaining a flat back, lowering weights toward shins until torso is nearly parallel to the floor.

A person performing a dumbbell deadlift exercise

In this form, you lower your body forward while pushing your hips back. Before reversing the exercise, your objective is to have your torso parallel to the floor and your weights lowered to your shins.

How to Do the Dumbbell Deadlift Without Wrecking Your Lower Back

For good reason, deadlifting is a classic exercise since it works a wide range of muscles at once and is very functional. Additionally, a barbell is not necessary: You can actually ease into this movement pattern more easily with the dumbbell deadlift, which tones your core, back, hamstrings, and glutes equally well.

Are you unfamiliar with this mainstay of strength training? With a dumbbell in each hand, you must stand tall and perform a hip hinge, which is pushing your butt back while maintaining a straight back and lowering your body until it is almost in line with the ground.
You push through your heels and brace your core to stand again.

Now that we are aware of the appearance of the dumbbell deadlift exercise, now let’s talk about all the other key details, like which particular muscle it works, why it can hurt so bad, typical blunders to avoid, how to include it into your weekly training schedule, and detailed directions for perfecting the exercise. After that, take a pair of dumbbells and try it out for yourself!


Is a dumbbell deadlift a conventional or Romanian deadlift?

One variation of the Romanian deadlift (RDL), sometimes referred to as a stiff-leg deadlift, is the dumbbell deadlift. In this form, you lower your body forward while pushing your hips back. Before reversing the exercise, your objective is to have your torso parallel to the floor and your weights lowered to your shins.

In contrast, a barbell deadlift, which is usually regarded as a conventional deadlift, involves lifting a barbell off the ground, standing up with a flat back, and then reversing the motion that returns the barbell to the starting position.

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According to Williams,
barbell deadlifts usually result in larger lifts than Romanian deadlifts. For this reason, he advises novices to start use dumbbells.

So they start with a smaller load and work their way up to maintaining perfect form.


What are some mistakes people make with the dumbbell deadlift?

among the most typical? rounding your back when the movement is in its eccentric phase, or when you are reducing the weight, advises Williams.

This could be an issue since it puts too much strain on those muscles, which could result in lower back pain and injury.

According to Williams, you may prevent that rounding and maintain a more neutral back by engaging your lats and activating your core. Are you having trouble activating your back muscles? Try out this exercise: Squeeze your shoulder blades together and consider carrying a piece of paper tucked snugly under your armpits.

By keeping your spine in a neutral position and engaging your upper body muscles, you can reduce the strain on your lower back. When the weights are lowered, ensure that you maintain their proximity to your body to prevent your spine from hunching.

How can you include the dumbbell deadlift in your workout routine?

According to Williams, incorporating the dumbbell deadlift into your regular strength training and hypertrophy or muscle-building exercises is a wonderful idea.

It can be done as a component of a lower-body or full-body workout. If building muscle is your goal, then shoot for three sets of eight to twelve repetitions.

According to Williams, advanced lifters who want to maximize their body strength should aim for three to five sets of two to six repetitions.

Williams advises beginners to begin with light dumbbells. Upon mastering correct form and the exercise becoming effortless, you can advance the exercise by selecting greater weights.

(Remember: You’ll need greater grip strength the more weight you lift; here are some pointers for strengthening it.) You can also experiment with other dumbbell deadlift variations to change things up.

Try the sumo deadlift to lessen the strain on your lower back, or try the single-leg deadlift to test your balance and core stability.

What muscles do dumbbell deadlifts work?

The posterior chain, or rear of your body, is precisely what the dumbbell deadlift targets. The exercise is excellent for lower-body activation since it primarily targets your glutes and hamstrings, as founder of E2G Performance Evan Williams, CSCS, CPT, tells SELF. However, it also includes core and upper body exercises.

As SELF previously reported, deadlifting activates your rectus abdominis (abs), obliques (side torso muscles), and erector spinae (a set of lower back muscles), as well as your latissimus dorsi (rhomboids, the muscles of the upper back), trapezius, the muscles of the upper back and neck, and lats, the largest muscles in your back.

The exercise is referred to as a compound exercise since it works multiple muscle groups at once throughout your body.

Why are dumbbell deadlifts so hard?

Many people who work out experience the struggle: They can lift a barbell off the ground really easily, but it appears much harder to perform the same exercise with dumbbells.

If that describes you, there’s a good reason why it doesn’t have to be your imagination.

When performing barbell deadlifts, you typically load up with large, wide plates—whether they be the original cast-iron plates or lighter bumper plates—which often while have a much larger diameter than dumbbells. Since the plates striking the floor stop you from going any farther, you don’t need to hinge down as much to finish the maneuver.

Accordingly, Williams says, you’ll probably need less range of motion in a barbell deadlift as opposed to a dumbbell deadlift, depending on your stature and stance. Additionally, because your muscles will be under tension for a longer period of time, a move may feel harder when you have a wider range of motion.

Additionally, dumbbells allow for a variety of deadlift variations that may feel more challenging than the conventional form. For example, the balance challenge of a single-leg or single-dumbbell deadlift necessitates stronger core stabilization. In this exercise, you do the movement on just one leg or by carrying a weight in one hand.

How to do the dumbbell deadlift
  • Place your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees slightly. With both hands, grasp a dumbbell at your thighs. This is the initial position.
  • Bend slightly at the knees while hingeing at the hips. Maintain a flat back while pushing your butt way back. The weights should be at your shins and your torso should be nearly parallel to the floor.
  • To stand up straight, push through your heels while maintaining a strong core. As you pull, keep the weights toward your shins.
  • Take a moment to squeeze your butt at the top. This is one repetition.

Anise Armario, a powerlifter and strength coach with Queer Trans Strength NYC, as well as the inventor and instructor of the Movement at Dancewave in Brooklyn, is demonstrating the move above.

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Incorporating the dumbbell deadlift into your workout routine offers a versatile way to strengthen your posterior chain while engaging core and upper body muscles. Whether part of a lower-body or full-body workout, focus on maintaining proper form to avoid injury and maximize effectiveness.

Start light, gradually increasing weight as you master the movement, and explore variations to challenge different muscle groups.

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